Mini-Moribund Mini-Moribund

The Mini-Projectionist
a Mini-Peter Adventure transcribed by Nikki, 2007

August 28: Welcome to the Working Week...
(wait a minute, that's Elvis Costello... oh well.)

     If you've read "The Birth of Mini-Peter," then you'll already know that I work as a projectionist at an 11-screen cinema. It's pretty fun, I can't complain... much. It was just another ordinary day on the job - I'd just finished starting all the movies for the five o'clock set and was sitting down in the break room to have a snack when I heard muffled cries coming from my bag.
     "Ohhh, no," I thought to myself. Mini-Peter had been wanting to come to work with me for some time, but I thought it would be too risky. It seemed he had finally gotten his wish. I retrieved my bag and had unzipped it no more than an inch when a tiny hand pushed through and grabbed the zipper, and soon Mini-Peter was forcing his own way out.


     "Finally!" he cried, gasping for air. "Where have you been? It's bloody stuffy in that bag, I thought I would suffocate!"
     "What are you doing in my bag in the first place? I thought I made it very clear you couldn't come to work with me."
     "Well I'm here now, and you can't very well put me back in there or I'll be dead by the time you get home."
     "I didn't know clay needed oxygen."
     "There are a lot of things you don't know about clay. Show me around a bit, why don't you?"
     I sighed in defeat. "Oh fine. I guess as long as you're here, we might as well make the best of it."
     "Show me the Orange cans!!" he squealed with delight. "The ones you took pictures of for my Orange Things photo album!"
     "Okay, okay, come on, let's go."
     I let him climb my arm up to my shoulder and took him to the room where we keep the cans, explaining to him on the way what they were for.
     "Each movie comes to us in reels - six, on average - and it's up to us to splice them all together in the right order so the whole movie can play at once. It's much better than changing reels like they did in the old days. The reels come in these big cans, and one of the printing companies, Technicolor, seems to like Orange about as much as you do." I showed him the cans and opened one so he could see the empty reels inside.


     "Even the reels are Orange!" he marveled.
     "Yep! After a few weeks, when we're finished with the movie, we break it down into separate reels again and send it on its way."
     "This is so exciting!" he exclaimed. "Please, show me more!"
     "Okay, let's check out the trailers."
     Once again, he climbed up to my shoulder and we walked to the shelves where we keep trailers and various supplies used in the projection booth.
     "These are all trailers, the two-minute commercials for other movies that run before the main feature. We choose a few that we think might interest people based on the movie they're seeing, and splice them in at the beginning."


     "Look, it says PG on this shelf!" He pointed out. "Are those all trailers for movies about Real Peter?"
     "I wish they were!" I laughed. "We used to keep the trailers organized by rating, so we wouldn't put a trailer for a violent R-rated movie on a kids' cartoon or something. Everyone got too lazy to keep them organized, so they're all a mess now."
     "I see. So how does the film work?"
     "Well," I plucked an old trailer out of the trash to show him, "The picture is right on the film. The light from the projector shines through and projects it frame by frame onto the big screen in the auditorium."


     "The sound is a little more complicated. See this line?" I pointed to the cyan line that ran the length of the film. "This is the sound line. It has an optical track, which looks like soundwaves, and a digital time code to sync the film to the DTS digital soundtrack, which comes on special CDs that are in the cans with each movie. There's also a code for Dolby digital sound, but we don't use that here."
     "I want to see a whole film! Can we see a whole film??"
     "Sure. We should be able to find one, we have eleven of them here!"
     I carried him to one of the projectors that had finished running and set him down on a platter so he could see the film.

a whole film

     "It's HUGE!" he said in awe.
     "This movie is about an hour and forty-five minutes, plus about ten minutes of trailers, so that's just a little under two hours' worth of film."
     "It must be a mile long!"
     "Longer! The film goes through at eighteen inches per second. That's over 10,000 feet in a two hour movie. That's almost two miles of film!"
     "Wowwwwww..." his chin dropped.
     "Now imagine what a projectionist has to go through if that film falls off the platter for some reason."
     "Have you ever had to do that?"
     "Yes, unfortunately, at my old theatre it used to happen all the time. Thankfully, it doesn't happen so much here."
     "That's a relief! Imagine picking up two miles of film..."
     "I don't have to imagine, I've done it."
     "How many miles of film do you think you've picked up?"
     "Probably well over fifty. It's a real pain in the--"
     "I thought you said this job was fun??"
     "Well, most of the time it is. That sort of thing isn't supposed to happen at all, we just had some bad equipment at my old theatre. But speaking of my job, this movie is set to start again soon, so I have to thread the projector. Want to watch?"
     "Yes, please!!"

     I showed him how the film goes through the brain in the center of the platter, which controls the speed at which the platter turns. Then I showed him how the film goes through the projector, and back onto another platter.
     "That looks like fun!" He decided once I had finished. Do you suppose I could try it?"
     "Well, I don't know how you'll reach."
     "It's okay, I brought my rope and helmet."
     "Oh you did, did you?"
     He nodded enthusiastically.
     "Well then I guess it would be all right."
     I showed him once more how it was done, and he timed me to see how long it took.
     "One minute, five seconds," he announced as I finished. "That was pretty fast."
     "I've been doing this for three years. I hope you don't think you're going to beat my time."
     "No, I just wanted to see. My turn!!"
     He got his helmet and rope from my bag and we chose a projector that wasn't starting for a long time. He got to work, so I left him to it while I threaded and started a few more movies. I came back to check on him periodically and he seemed to know what he was doing.


     "Don't forget to keep the sound-line facing out," I reminded him as he began threading the film through the projector itself.
     "Yes, yes, I remember," he assured me, so I watched him work.

     "This movie has to start in three minutes," I informed him after a while. "Are you almost done with it?"
     "Yes, nearly, just a minute more," he called to me, rappelling down to the bottom roller to tighten the film against the take-up arm. "Finished!" He informed me proudly, and I stopped the timer on my phone. "How long?" he asked.
     "Thirty-seven minutes and twelve seconds."
     "Well it's not bad considering the highest rollers are about thirty-six mini-feet off the ground."
     "True," I agreed, "very true. You did a good job, but you still have to start it."
     "How do I do that?"
     "Push the start button."
     I showed him where it was, so he pressed it and watched in wonder as the xenon lamp ignited and the motor started. The film was pulled through the projector, and after seven seconds the dowser opened automatically to let the light flow to the screen.


     "Look at that," I pointed proudly, "You even threaded it in frame. I've known people who'd worked projection for a year and still couldn't do that consistently. Nicely done."
     "Thank you."
     I showed him how to focus the lens, then we peered through the port glass as he adjusted it until the picture was sharp.
     "That's it," I congratulated him, "you're officially a projectionist now."
     "I'm thrilled," he said, "but I'm also thoroughly exhausted."
     "I would imagine so."
     "Is it break time yet?"
     "Yeah, come on, let's go."
     I showed him my locker in the break room, where I keep snacks. He dug through my bag of various collected goodies and found a true treasure.
     "Tea! Earl Grey, no less!"


     "I think you've earned yourself a cup. We can boil water in the microwave."
     We settled down in the break room with our Earl Grey and waited for the last movies to get out. I offered to show him how I close up for the night, but he was too tired for any more excitement, so he tucked himself back into my bag, leaving the zipper open this time so he could breathe, and was sound asleep by the time I gathered him up to go home. He slept all the way back to the apartment, and he barely stirred as I lifted him from the bag and tucked him into his bed. As I checked my e-mail before heading to my own bed, I heard him mumbling in his sleep about "Technicolor" and "sound line out" and "xenon bulb". What an adventure this had been! Maybe next time I'm feeling under the weather, I can send him in to cover for me.